Marketing, Monty Python and the Good Old Stuff
There is an hysterically funny promotional video for comedy troupe Monty Python’s ten reunion shows at London’s O2 Arena on the Rolling Stones website (rollingstones.com). Titled Dramatic Irony, the short features Mick Jagger taking the piss out of the surviving Pythons, himself and the band he fronts. If you don’t get the post-modern jokes you are either a Lutheran or beyond help. Maybe both, God help you.
I remember encountering Monty Python’s Flying Circus on the CBC in black and white on the portable TV in the basement. This was not Red Skelton; Gertrude and Harriet, Red’s seagulls, were not present. I remember taking the bus to Cote-des-Neiges Plaza with an older boy from Lake Charles, LA who lived next door to see And Now for Something Completely Different in the cinema. We were too young to ask each other, What the fuck was that?
My father loved Monty Python. I remember an afternoon in 1975 when he took me to see Monty Python and the Holy Grail at a theatre on Bank Street in Ottawa. I squirmed through puberty and the oral sex jokes beside him in the air-conditioned dark. Poor man, I always bought him the latest Python LP for Christmas. I doubt he ever played them (anyway the three-sided album would’ve been a bastard on his Fleetwood stereo); Dad said his wife couldn’t appreciate the humour.
Thousands of kilometres away, Ann and her father shared a Monty Python bond too. Her mother and his wife just didn’t get the absurdity of sketch humour without punch lines or way too many of them.
If you spend a few seconds peering at Mick’s face at the end of Dramatic Irony, you can see he’s dying to burst out laughing. The bemused expressions of a somnambulant and utterly deadpan Stones drummer Charlie Watts lying on the couch beside Mick are priceless. You’re reminded of Harvey Korman and Tim Conway trying to keep it together on the late, lamented and exquisite Carol Burnett Show. Some people have fun at work and the rest of us wonder what that may be like.
Comedy is a funny thing. You think one and done. A gag’s best before date should be that single moment after the initial laughter has waned. Why is it after all of these years I’m still cracking up at the same jokes and routines? Name any Marx Brothers or Charlie Chaplin film and I’ve seen it at least three times. Peter Sellers proffering birdie num-nums in The Party? Lost count. I can still hear Bob Newhart on the phone with Sir Walter Raleigh: ‘Tobacco, Walt? You what? You stick it between your lips and set it on fire? Riight’; Bill Cosby as Noah: ‘What’s a cubit, Lord!?; George Carlin as a sportscaster: ‘Lions 50, Christians nothing’; Peter Cook and Dudley Moore as their unbelievably filthy alter egos Derek and Clive – perhaps best left untyped as Times Roman really doesn’t do justice to the subtleties and nuances of their blue deliveries. I can still see Eddie Murphy in his red Raw jumpsuit, Richard Pryor doing a bug-eyed double-take, John Belushi arching an eyebrow, Robin Williams speeding Live at The Met and Denis Leary’s black leather stage prowling No Cure for Cancer rants.